El Paso Locomotive FC rolled into Louisville City FC on Saturday afternoon and delivered one of the most notable results of the early 2023 USL Championship season, defeating the hosts 3-0 before a crowd of 10,881 at Lynn Family Stadium – the highest home opener attendance in LouCity’s history.
Here are three things we took away from the contest.
While El Paso Locomotive FC had lost its opening three games of the season, there had been enough to like about the way the side had approached games. On Saturday afternoon, it finally all clicked into place as the side put in a road performance that was both opportunistic and resilient in a tremendous reflection of the soccer Head Coach Brian Clarhaut is aiming for from his side.
Instead of the bad breaks it had experienced previously, good fortune shone on the visitors. Marc Navarro’s first goal in El Paso colors was an example, with the Spanish right back’s curled left-football ball into the penalty area finding the net after Luis Solignac fanned on his header attempt, freezing Louisville goalkeeper Kyle Morton as he waited for a redirection that didn’t come. Add the defensive errors that were clinically punished by Ricardo Zacarias and Petar Petrovic and Locomotive FC left the station with its first points of the season.
There were obviously numerous key absences for Louisville City FC on its back line with Joshua Wynder absent due to international duty and both Wes Charpie and Jordan Scarlett injured, but that doesn’t really cover the elementary errors that plagued the side and gave Locomotive FC the chances it needed. A misjudgment by Ramzi Qawasmy as El Paso goalkeeper Benny Diaz’s long punt upfield bounced over his head, allowing Zacarias to pounce, was backed up by a misplaced pass by Amadou Dia – who lost possession a team-high 23 times overall – to hand Locomotive FC its third, at which point it was basically game over.
Everyone loses games over the course of a season, but these types of performances haven’t typically been in LouCity’s DNA. Saturday marked the first time goalkeeper Kyle Morton had conceded three goals in a game since joining the club before the 2022 season, while last season the defending Eastern Conference title holder only conceded two goals from errors according to Opta, tied for fourth-fewest in the league. It’s something Head Coach Danny Cruz will want to address ahead of a big road trip to Sacramento Republic FC next Saturday night.
El Paso Locomotive FC's Marc Navarro claimed his first goal for his new club as he continues to build his way back after a long layoff from the game. | Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville City FC
Bringing experience from La Liga and the Premier League, but returning to the field after a lengthy absence, there was a certain amount of intrigue as to what Marc Navarro could offer El Paso Locomotive FC this season. Four games in, it’s not all sunshine and roses, but it does feel like the 27-year-old is finding his way back to being the player he once was.
On the plus side of the ledger, aside from his (somewhat fortuitous) first goal for the club on Saturday, he’s also delivered seven chances created and been a positive threat on the right side while building up to being 90-minute ready - he was substituted after 85 minutes in Louisville, the furthest he's gone in a game so far. On the downside, he doesn’t quite seem ready for the more physical aspects needed from a defender, with only three successful tackles and a 46.2 percent duel success rate. It’s likely better will come in those areas, though, and that Navarro is going to make a good impact as he starts to rebuild his career.